ELIZABETH, N.J. -- Wakefern Food Corp./ShopRite is helping to underwrite a 100-school run of "The Prince of the Pyramid," a play that uses interaction between the cast and young audience members to educate children about the food pyramid, the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and adopting a healthier lifestyle in general.
The play, conceived and written by the Tufts University Center on Nutrition Communication and The National Theatre for Children, is co-sponsored locally by ShopRite Supermarkets and Amerigroup New Jersey, Edison, N.J., a health insurer of low-income families.
According to Cheryl Macik, manager of consumer and corporate affairs for the 200-store wholesale cooperative, the play premiered at a school in Kearny, N.J., on October 27th, and is scheduled for a 100-school run in the Garden State. There are actually two versions of the drama being performed: one is designed for lower elementary school students and another for upper elementary students.
The basic story follows famed archaeologist Dana Upton as she searches for explanations behind the giant pyramid which has just crushed her car and the disappearance of nutritious foods from the city in which she lives. Along the way to uncovering answers to the riddles, both Dana and the audience discover why good nutrition and exercise are important, using the information contained in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid.
"The kids love it, and the adults who've seen it learn a lot from it as well," she said. "It really creates an environment where the kids are eager to learn, in a fun and creative way."
To complement the production and reinforce the lessons learned during the play, teachers are provided with classroom workbooks and access to additional activities on the Internet. Macik said that all printed material includes the ShopRite logo.
"Every teacher that gets a supply of workbooks for the children, based on what was learned in the performance, to build on the concept of eating according to the food guide pyramid," she said. "We're also providing a coupon that they can bring back into the produce department at any ShopRite to use towards the purchase of produce."
Macik said that the voucher is worth $1 off a $3 or more purchase of any produce item in ShopRite stores. Store visits are also promoted with take-home assignments, called the "Nutrition Expedition," which sends students on a hunt to identify nutritious foods throughout the supermarket, including produce.
"We always do a lot to promote nutrition education in the stores, through our consumer education brochures, as well as our supermarket tour program for kids," said Macik. "Our 'Partners in Caring' program, focused on charitable giving, is another way we can make an important contribution to the community, by teaching young children good, healthy eating habits in their early years, so they make healthy choices throughout their lives."
"They're lesson-plan based and cover a variety of topics, whether it's nutrition, or how food gets from the farm to the table or technology in the supermarket. And it's designed to go hand-in-hand with an actual tour in the store," she said.
The promotion of the play comes on the heels of another initiative -- the Fight BAC! food safety/good health program, developed last year by the Partnership for Food Safety Education -- that stressed simple handwashing. A local promotion was co-sponsored by ShopRite and the American Public Health Association during national Food Safety Month in September, during which time New York-based Colgate-Palmolive provided samples of its Softsoap brand of liquid soap.
"We've been doing a lot of educational programs at stores, especially those that have Scrunchy playhouse centers, to teach children how to wash their hands. It sounds very simplistic, but it's a very important message," she said.